OLE SAVANNAH is located on the Historic Rondout at 100 Rondout Landing. The building is part of the former Cornell Steamboat Company shops. The Cornell Steamboat Company was the dominating towing company on the Hudson from 1880 to the 1930’s. The building was a “boiler shop”. Boilers for the ships were both built and repaired at this sight, which is located directly on Rondout Creek.
Rondout is the river port of the city of Kingston, which was incorporated in 1872. Rondout was established by the Dutch in the seventeenth century as an Indian trading post. The Rondout village was situated on the Hudson at the mouth of the Rondout Creek. The creek empties into the Hudson through a large, protected tidal area. Prior to it’s incorporation, it was known as The Strand, Kingston Landing and Bolton (in honor of the president of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co.)
Kingston was the most important port between New York and Albany in the 19th century. In 1828, the Delaware and Hudson Canal linked the Pennsylvania coal fields to New York City via the Hudson River. The Rondout was the link from the canal to the river, and prosperity flowed from this rich natural resource. The town’s population and business exploded and prospered. As a result of the river transportation, the Rondout was the sight of many new developing industries such as brick and cement manufacturing, bluestone shipping, and ice-making.
The Cornell Steamboat Company was started in 1847 by Thomas Cornell. Thomas Cornell operated his business from Rondout where he repaired and maintained a fleet of 62 tugboats which towed brages of materials including coal to New York City and other ports. Thomas Cornell built repair shops along the creek to provide full service to the boats, and fixed rail locomotives as well.
Thomas Cornell was an astute business man, who used his increasing power to expand his control over the river traffic. Eventually Cornell had a virtual monopoly of towing on the Hudson River and employed over 450 employees on their boats and in their workshops along the Rondout Creek. At one time, he owned the largest fleet of towboats in the country.
Ultimately, Cornell Steamboat shut it’s doors in 1963. The Rondout-West Strand Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The present day Rondout West Strand Historic District is an interesting mix of historic residential, commercial and religious architecture.